Former NBA referee says mob made death threats

WASHINGTON, Dec 6 Reuters) - Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, recently released from jail after serving most of a 15-month sentence for taking bribes to provide tips on games, said in an interview aired on Sunday that he had received death threats from organized crime.

Donaghy had pleaded guilty to two felony charges and admitted to gambling on National Basketball Association games for four years, including games he officiated.

In an interview with the CBS television program "60 Minutes," he said after three years of gambling, the Gambino crime family learned of his activity and threatened Donaghy's wife and children if he did not tell them who to bet on.

Donaghy said from that point on, he passed his picks to the crime syndicate through an intermediary using code.

The FBI uncovered Donaghy's involvement through monitoring of mob phone calls. The referee cooperated with the FBI to get a lighter sentence, which angered his criminal contacts.

"There were threats made to my home phone....Death threats," Donaghy said. "That I was going to be killed."

In jail, Donaghy said he was threatened and attacked by a man who said he was connected to the mob.

Donaghy also accused the NBA of doing everything possible in its playoffs to extend the series and help big market teams advance because it's more profitable for the league. The NBA has called Donaghy a rogue referee with no credibility.

When the scandal broke the NBA appointed Lawrence Pedowitz, a former investigator in the U.S. Attorney's Office, to review the league's officiating program.

"Mr. Pedowitz' review revealed that the NBA's core values of neutrality and accountability were not compromised by anyone other than Mr. Donaghy," Commissioner David Stern said in a statement after the 60 Minutes program aired.

Donaghy said he won about $100,000 in betting on NBA games over four years.

The case sent shockwaves through the NBA, leaving fans wondering if Donaghy altered the outcome of games because of his financial interest. Donaghy in the interview denied he had and said an FBI investigation backed this up.

Donaghy, was sentenced in 2008 after he pleaded guilty to the charges. He served 13 months of his sentence.

(Reporting and Editing by World Desk, Americas)